With the loss Auburn falls to 29-26 overall and 12-17 in SEC play and is now locked in to the 10th position in next week's SEC Tournament in Hoover. Florida improves to 40-15 overall and is still within striking distance of the overall conference title going into Saturday.
Needing something positive going into Friday's game, Auburn instead couldn't get out of its own way as the Gators struck for four runs in the first inning and three more in the third to break the game open early. Coach John Pawlowski said his team never got into the game after the rough start.
"The thing that is very important is to settle the game down," Pawlowski said. "We weren't able to settle it down. The first inning we struggled and they put some big hits on the board. We could never get anything going after that."
At the plate Auburn had just two hits for the night and now have just five hits in 59 at-bats (.0847) for the first two games. Pitching and hitting for the Gators, junior left-hander Brian Johnson allowed just one unearned run on two hits in seven innings to pick up the win on the mound while adding two hits at the plate. Pawlowski said his team just couldn't get anything going against the powerful Johnson at the plate.
"We just have to keep competing," Pawlowski said. "I thought our guys were competing, but it starts with the very first inning. I just think we struggled early. We have to fight. We've got to come back tomorrow and be more competitive on the mound and more competitive at the plate to try to get something going."
Much like Thursday night's loss, Auburn failed to get out of the starting gate against the talented Gators on Friday and it began in the first inning. After getting Nolan Fontana on a fly ball to start the game, Koger walked Daniel Pigott and that's where the trouble began. Up next, Preston Tucker ripped a double to left field to put runners on second and third and one out for big Mike Zunino.
Koger compounded his problems with a walk of the catcher to load the bases with one out for Johnson. The pitcher for the Gators, Johnson helped himself with a sacrifice fly to center field to score Pigott and put Florida on the board. With two outs it looked like Koger might get out of the jam, but first baseman Vickash Ramjit had other ideas. Taking a pitch the other way, he launched his fifth home run of the season over the right field wall to make it 4-0 Gators.
In the second inning Dan Gamache was at first base with two outs and took off for second on an attempted steal. Thrown out at the bag without sliding, he was replaced by Mitchell Self to start the third and Pawlowski said it was just about effort.
"You've got to play hard," Pawlowski said. "You've got to play hard. I'm not sure (what happened). I'll talk to him about it."
Florida went back to work in the third and would knock Koger out of the contest before recording an out in the inning. Leading off, Zunino quickly made it five run advantage with a solo shot to right field. It was his 15th of the season and gave Johnson an even bigger cushion on the mound.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Florida wasn't done in the third. An infield single by the pitcher meant a call to the bullpen for Slade Smith and Ramjit quickly singled to center field to welcome the Auburn junior to the game. After hitting Casey Turgeon with a pitch to load the bases, an infield single by third baseman Josh Tobias made it 6-0 Florida. Smith coaxed Justin Shafer into a double play to get out of the jam but not before Ramjit scored the third run of the inning to give the Gators a commanding 7-0 lead.
Thanks to plenty of help from Florida, Auburn finally scored its first run of the series in the bottom of the third. After getting the first two Tigers, Johnson walked Zach Alvord and Jay Gonzalez to bring Creede Simpson to the plate. Pulling a pitch on the ground just to the left of Tobias at third base, Simpson reached as the ball bounced into left field for an error. Alvord scored on the Florida mistake and put the Tigers on the board.
That would be all for Auburn as Johnson shut down the Tigers before leaving the game in the eighth. By that time Florida had added three more runs to its lead with two coming on a home run by Tucker in the sixth off Dillon Ortman. It was his 14th of the season and put the finishing nail in the coffin for Auburn.
The Tigers will try to salvage the final game of the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. with senior Derek Varnadore expected to get the call for the Tigers against Karsten Whitson for the Gators. It will be the fourth time in SEC play this season that Auburn goes into the final game needing a win to avoid a sweep. The first three games the Tigers have been outscored 25-12 in losing all three.